Thom Yorke likes to blur the line between man and machine.
Over the last decade, the Radiohead frontman has helped push the influential British band further afield from the roaring guitars and crunchy melodies that first earned them notice in the mid-'90s and into the cybernetic unknown.
Apart from the group, Yorke embraces the electronic genre even more tightly.
First on his 2006 solo debut The Eraser and again here, on Amok, the first effort from Atoms for Peace (an ad-hoc supergroup first assembled in 2009 featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and producer Nigel Godrich), the singer-songwriter melds edgy sonics with defiantly human vocals to mesmerizing effect.
But where The Eraser was resolutely abrasive and chilly -- somewhat understandable, given Yorke's determination to distance his solo style from Radiohead's relative accessibility -- Amok doesn't forsake approachability for art's sake. These are songs you can listen to without feeling like you're doing your hipster homework.
In fact, this is the most consistently engaging collection of songs Yorke's released since Radiohead's 2003 LP Hail to the Thief.
More remarkably, Yorke is creating these works within the context of a "supergroup," and it's a testament to the willingness of the participants (along with Flea and Godrich, percussionists Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco round out the band) that these nine tracks feel as cohesive as they do.
From the restless, falsetto-charged Ingenue to the haunting, propulsive Judge, Jury and Executioner, Atoms for Peace excels at creating spare soundscapes that nevertheless feel packed with paranoia, littered with ear-catching effects (there's a fascinating, repeated clacking sound in Reverse Running that sounds like a snare drum being struck in, well, reverse) and strewn with lyrics obliquely referencing alienation and romantic struggles ("You can have anything that you want/Except the thing you really want," Yorke croons in Stuck Together Pieces).
The music world's relationship with technology is often uneasy, with artists frequently abandoning restraint. Atoms for Peace, with its superstar members working in sync, strikes the right balance between the digital and the organic.